A USA TODAY high school All-American and Cotton Bowl MVP who drew comparisons to the great Joe Montana but threw for 50 touchdowns and 76 interceptions during his underwhelming NFL career.
That pretty much sums up Rick Mirer’s stint on the gridiron.
Mirer was a big-name quarterback at Goshen High School and Notre Dame who became a football legend in the state of Indiana.
Unfortunately, his NFL career wasn’t as successful.
In fact, Mirer, the second overall pick of the 1993 NFL Draft, had a penchant for throwing more picks than touchdowns in a season.
He also never tasted postseason football in his twelve-year pro career.
Nonetheless, Rick Mirer is currently a successful wine entrepreneur who enjoys seeing his sons excel in their athletic careers.
Richard Franklin “Rick” Mirer was born in Goshen, IN on March 19, 1970.
Mirer was already into football at a young age.
He competed in the National Punt, Pass and Kick Competition when he was just eight years old.
Mirer attended Goshen High School where he played football and baseball.
His father Ken was the head football coach of the Goshen Redhawks squad that won the state 2A championship in 1978.
According to The Goshen News‘ Robby Howard, the younger Mirer always thought his dad would call the shots for the Redhawks during his high school days.
Unfortunately, that dream didn’t come true.
Ken Mirer resigned during his son’s freshman year at Goshen High School.
He had been the Redhawks coach for twenty years.
Nonetheless, Rick Mirer remained unfazed.
He told Howard in 2014 the turn of events didn’t traumatize him. He just had to play with the hand life dealt him.
For his part, Ken Mirer decided to be his son’s staunchest supporter in the stands.
It worked out great for father and son. Mirer told The Goshen News the new setup prevented inevitable conflicts between father and son on the football field:
“In the end, my dad made the best decision for both of us, I’m sure.”
“It took away all the struggle of having conflicts with your old man and he got a chance to sit back and watch.”
“It just worked out. It worked out great.”
Ken Mirer was a bit of a trendsetter back in the day.
He wore headsets while watching his son play.
The reason: he’d rather listen to the play-by-play on the radio broadcast than the venom fans were spewing his son’s way.
Some thirty years later, Rick Mirer felt those fans had no idea what they were talking about, per Howard.
When Mirer began coaching his sons during his post-football years, he understood how his dad felt back in the day.
If I had a vote I would vote for him, he is one of the best if not the best Football Player to come out of Elkhart County since Rick Mirer from Goshen High School. via @newlevelmedia2
— The Gridiron Digest (@gridirondigest) November 23, 2018
When he was a senior at Goshen High School, he threw for 3,973 yards and thirty touchdowns.
Mirer’s passing stats surpassed those of Warren Central Warriors quarterback Jeff George, another Indiana high school football legend.
George went on to become a first-round draft choice of the Indianapolis Colts in 1990.
Legendary Notre Dame Fighting Irish head football coach Lou Holtz was in hot pursuit of Mirer, a 1988 USA TODAY High School All-American.
Holtz’s recruitment of Mirer got off to a very awkward start.
Holtz reportedly slipped on the ice outside the Goshen High School premises. A Los Angeles Times report (via The Seattle Times‘ Craig Smith) indicated the coach “went flying.”
One of Holtz’s assistants helped him off the ground and directed him to the room where he would meet Mirer.
Holtz wasted no time in making his sales pitch.
He told Mirer he would sue him and his school if he didn’t choose Notre Dame.
Mirer was in a bind. He grew up in a household of Michigan Wolverines fans. His dad Ken hails from Ypsilanti, MI, attended Eastern Michigan, and supported Notre Dame’s hated rivals.
The Mirer household grew accustomed to watching Michigan and Big Ten football during Rick’s formative years in Goshen.
— Eddie White (@eddiewhite3) October 18, 2015
Mirer also received a scholarship offer from the Michigan State Spartans during his junior year. It was his first offer.
Mirer was also leaning toward a college football career on the West Coast.
He told 247Sports.com’s Kevin Sinclair in November 2020 the thought of donning a Stanford Cardinal or UCLA Bruins jersey fascinated him.
Plus, Mirer looked up to UCLA Bruins quarterback Troy Aikman. He also admired their head football coach, Terry Donahue.
Mirer also considered the Florida State Seminoles because of their quarterbacks coach Mark Richt.
However, when Richt left to become the East Carolina Pirates’ offensive coordinator, he crossed FSU off his shortlist.
The Seminoles in-state rivals, the Miami Hurricanes, also had Mirer on their radar. Unfortunately, he told Sinclair it wasn’t the right fit.
While Mirer ultimately chose to stay in-state with Notre Dame, it wasn’t an easy decision.
Fighting Irish recruiting coordinator Vinny Cerrato played a huge role in luring Mirer to South Bend.
Cerrato was the man behind the stellar Notre Dame Class of 1988 that included Raghib “The Rocket” Ismail, Devon McDonald, Derek Brown, and Rodney Culver.
That group helped the Irish win their eleventh national title that year.
Cerrato’s timing in recruiting Mirer couldn’t have come at a more perfect time.
He rang up Mirer during kickoff of the Fiesta Bowl – the national championship game between the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and West Virginia Mountaineers – on January 2, 1989.
“That meant a lot to me,” Mirer told 247Sports.com thirty-one years later. “That was about as intimate as the timing of a call when you’re a recruit. You only get to call one guy at that second, and I was the lucky one.”
Mirer would go on to become one of the best quarterbacks in Notre Dame football history.
College Days With The Notre Dame Fighting Irish
For Rick Mirer, Notre Dame’s history of sending quarterbacks to the National Football League wasn’t his main consideration for choosing the school.
It wasn’t also proximity considering his hometown of Goshen, IN is just thirty miles from South Bend.
Mirer told the South Bend Tribune’s Eric Hansen (via The Indianapolis Star) in April 2021 the biggest factor was a chance to win a national title with the Irish:
“Honestly the biggest thing for me was a chance to win a championship. And then throw in the school, the history, the tradition, coaching stability – all that stuff.”
“But the NFL, hell, there were so many things that had to happen first; that was not my concern.”
Mirer officially became part of Notre Dame football lore in 1989. It had been just several months after the Irish won their eleventh national championship.
Could Rick Mirer help them win another one?
Mirer didn’t make an immediate impact, though: he was a second-string true freshman quarterback who was the understudy of senior Tony Rice during the 1989 NCAA season.
Mirer threw for just 180 yards and an interception in limited action in twelve games that year.
The Irish went 12-1 in Holtz’s fourth year at the helm.
Notre Dame beat the Colorado Buffaloes in the Orange Bowl on New Year’s Day, 21-6.
Senior fullback Anthony Johnson’s two touchdown runs helped clinch the victory for the Irish.
— Dean Huppert (@MishawakaAD) September 16, 2015
Mirer took over as the Irish’s starting quarterback in the 1990 NCAA season.
He passed for 1,824 yards, eight touchdowns, and six interceptions.
With Mirer as the Irish’s signal caller, they won nine of twelve games in 1990.
They received an invitation to play in the Orange Bowl for the second consecutive year.
Ironically, it was a rematch with the Colorado Buffaloes.
This time around, the first-ranked Buffaloes beat the fifth-ranked Irish in a squeaker, 10-9.
A blocked extra point attempt in the second quarter, five turnovers, and Raghib “Rocket” Ismail’s nullified late 91-yard touchdown return spelled Notre Dame’s doom.
Mirer’s bowl game debut got off to an inauspicious start.
He threw an interception to Colorado free safety Greg Thomas in the Irish’s first play of the game.
Despite the Orange Bowl loss, Mirer and Co. would bounce back in his junior season in 1991.
Mirer threw for career bests of 2,117 yards and eighteen touchdowns in twelve games.
Mirer’s eighteen touchdown passes during his junior season were a single-season record in Notre Dame football history.
His 149.2 passing efficiency rating was also the best of his four-year college football career.
The Irish went 10-3 in the 1991 NCAA season.
The 18th-ranked Irish upset the third-ranked Florida Gators in the Sugar Bowl, 39-28.
It was a stirring comeback win for Notre Dame, which trailed 16-7 at halftime.
Irish head football coach Lou Holtz implored his men to run the football more in the second half.
Notre Dame’s Jerome Bettis – a future member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and Super Bowl-winning running back of the Pittsburgh Steelers – happily obliged.
Bettis went wild during a two-minute, forty-four second span in the second half where he scored three touchdowns and racked up 100 yards on the ground.
Bettis, who finished the game with 150 rushing yards, was proclaimed Sugar Bowl MVP.
Mirer wasn’t too shabby at all.
He threw 40-yard and four-yard touchdown passes to wideout Lake Dawson and tight end Irv Smith, respectively.
However, it was Bettis who stole the limelight.
Mirer returned for his senior season in South Bend and promptly picked up where he left off.
His 1,876 passing yards and fifteen touchdown passes helped Notre Dame to a 10-1-1 win-loss record in his senior season.
— Notre Dame on NBC (@NDonNBC) May 22, 2020
Mirer’s last fond memory of iconic Notre Dame Stadium was the memorable “Snow Bowl” win over the visiting 22nd-ranked Penn State Nittany Lions on Senior Day.
With the Irish trailing 16-9, Mirer threw a desperation touchdown pass to Jerome Bettis on fourth down.
That set up the decisive two-point conversion to running back Reggie Brooks with just twenty-five seconds remaining.
Notre Dame prevailed, 17-16.
The Irish played in their sixth consecutive bowl game.
Fifth-ranked Notre Dame ran roughshod over the hapless fourth-ranked Texas A&M Aggies in the Cotton Bowl, 28-3.
The “Thunder and Lightning” duo of Bettis and Brooks accounted for 190 of the Irish’s 290 rushing yards.
Mirer, who passed for 119 yards and two touchdowns, earned Cotton Bowl MVP honors.
It was a great way to cap off a memorable stint at one of the best football programs in the nation.
Mirer finished his college football career with 5,997 passing yards, 41 touchdowns, and 23 interceptions.
His 41 career touchdowns were the most in the program’s football history.
With four years of college football experience tucked under his belt, Rick Mirer was now ready to take his game to the next level: the National Football League.
Pro Football Career
After stringing together several mediocre seasons in the early 1990s, the Seattle Seahawks reached rock bottom in the 1992 NFL season.
The woebegone Seahawks won a paltry two games that year.
They finished last in the AFC West division. Their passing offense (1,778 yards) and total offense (3,374) were dead last in the twenty-eight team field.
Journeyman quarterback Stan Gelbaugh led the Seahawks’ passing attack with 1,307 yards and a meager six touchdowns.
He also threw eleven interceptions.
Clearly, Gelbaugh wasn’t the answer at quarterback. Seattle needed a capable signal caller who could bring its lifeless passing game to life.
Enter Rick Mirer.
Some football experts and pundits thought it was a huge gamble on the Seahawks’ part.
— Dick Vitale (@DickieV) September 27, 2019
Lou Holtz, Mirer’s head football coach at Notre Dame, would have none of it.
Holtz rattled off Mirer’s assets to The Seattle Times‘ Craig Smith: the 6’2″, 210-lb. rookie possessed great arm strength, durability, leadership, and intelligence; moved well in the pocket, didn’t make costly mistakes, and ran 4.6 in the 40-yard dash.
“He’s a beautiful human being,” Holtz told Smith. “If I were building a franchise, I would build it with Rick Mirer.”
Prior to the draft, Mirer drew comparisons to Dallas Cowboys’ great Roger Staubach and San Francisco 49ers legend and fellow Notre Dame Fighting Irish alumnus Joe Montana.
Experts believed Mirer and Washington State Cougars quarterback Drew Bledsoe would be the first two selections in the draft.
They weren’t wrong.
The New England Patriots made the highly-touted Bledsoe the first overall pick of the 1993 NFL Draft.
Mirer went second overall to the Seattle Seahawks.
Regrettably, Mirer never lived up to the hype in the professional ranks.
Seahawks head coach Tom Flores made Mirer Seattle’s starting quarterback for the 1993 NFL campaign.
Mirer threw for 2,833 yards, twelve touchdowns, and seventeen interceptions in sixteen games.
He shared Offensive Rookie of the Year honors with his college teammate and Los Angeles Rams running back Jerome Bettis.
Fun fact: Rick Mirer was the AFC Offensive Rookie of the Year in 1993, beating out Drew Bledsoe https://t.co/DrAgfYeBMp
— Pat Lane (@plane_pats) November 12, 2021
The Seahawks improved to 6-10 in 1993 but missed the postseason for the fifth straight year.
Mirer didn’t make much headway in his second pro season.
He threw for eleven touchdowns and seven interceptions.
Except for his one-touchdown showing with the San Francisco 49ers in the 2000 NFL season, it was the only time Rick Mirer threw for more touchdowns than interceptions in his twelve-year NFL career.
One low point in Mirer’s career happened during a preseason game against the 49ers in 1995.
First-year Seahawks head coach Dennis Erickson fined Mirer, defensive tackle Cortez Kennedy, and safety Eugene Robinson $1,000 each for eating hot dogs on the sideline in the third quarter, per The Washington Post.
“You guys have already written enough about that,” an embarrassed Mirer said.
Mirer went on to throw a career-high twenty interceptions in the 1995 NFL season.
He fared even worse the following year, passing for just five touchdowns and throwing twelve picks in eleven games.
Erickson sat out Mirer in favor of John Friesz after five games.
The Seahawks eventually traded Mirer and a fourth-round draft choice to the Chicago Bears for the latter’s first-round pick in the 1997 NFL Draft at season’s end.
Mirer had entered the last year of his rookie deal with the Seahawks that would have paid him $2.488 million in 1997, per Kitsap Sun Sports Editor Bart Wright.
He signed a three-year, $10 million deal with the Bears.
Mirer concluded his four-year stint in Seattle with 41 touchdowns and 56 interceptions.
He started a total of fifty-one games during his four-year tenure in the Emerald City.
Mirer went 21-30 as the Seahawks starting quarterback.
During that span, the Seahawks averaged seven wins and missed the postseason each time.
— Chicago History ™️ (@Chicago_History) October 13, 2014
The Bears fully expected MIrer to start at quarterback in 1997.
“We believe Rick has the qualities to be an outstanding player and help us get to the next level,” Chicago head coach Dave Wannstedt told The Kitsap Sun.
Wannstedt was way off in his analysis of Mirer.
Mirer suited up seven games, started three, and threw for zero touchdowns and six interceptions in the Windy City.
The Bears, who were 7-9 the year before they acquired Mirer, went 4-12 the year they acquired him.
It was Chicago’s worst showing in twenty-two years.
Mirer rode the Packers bench all season long and never played a single down in Green Bay.
The Packers traded him to the New York Jets in August 1999.
Mirer was expected to compete for Vinny Testaverde’s backup spot with Scott Zolak and Ray Lucas.
Jets head coach Bill Parcells, who coached the New England Patriots when they selected Drew Bledsoe first overall in 1993, told The Associated Press Mirer didn’t come close to Bledsoe’s potential that year.
“I liked then what I saw in Rick, but it wasn’t close when we took Bledsoe,” Parcells said. “That was seven years ago, anyway. A lot of things have changed.”
Mirer started six games for the Jets in relief of an injured Testaverde and threw for five touchdowns and nine picks.
11/7/99 – Although in a 12-7 loss at the New York Jets, outside linebacker @Rfredrickson59 recorded 22 tackles, a modern day Cardinals franchise-record. Jets QB Rick Mirer hit WR Keyshawn Johnson in triple coverage for a 43yrd TD w/5:29 remaining to give NYJ the victory. #RedSea pic.twitter.com/2aMXB9Dz2l
— Arizona Sports History (@AZSportsHistory) November 7, 2020
Mirer would spend the next four seasons in the Northern California region.
He played in a combined ten games for the San Francisco 49ers and the then-Oakland Raiders from 2000 to 2003.
Mirer produced four touchdown passes and five interceptions during that stretch.
He endured two consecutive DNP seasons with the 49ers and Raiders in 2001 and 2002.
He signed with the Detroit Lions in 2004 and had the fourth DNP season of his pro football career.
Rick Mirer officially hung up his cleats at the conclusion of the 2004 NFL campaign.
He finished his underachieving twelve-year NFL career with 11,969 passing yards, 50 touchdowns, and 76 interceptions in 80 games.
Rick Mirer, his wife Stephanie, and their sons Morrison, Oliver, and Charlie currently reside in San Diego, CA.
Just like his father, Morrison Mirer attended the University of Notre Dame.
He was a 6’2″, 200-lb. midfielder who played for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish lacrosse team.
On the other hand, Oliver Mirer is a 6’1″, 190-lb. defensive midfielder of the Michigan Wolverines lacrosse team
Their youngest brother Charlie is the only one who’s primed for a career in football.
Charlie Mirer, a 6’6″, 235-lb. member of the 2022 quarterback recruiting class, is currently a senior at Cathedral Catholic High School in San Diego.
Rick Mirer told the South Bend Tribune his son Charlie currently has a scholarship offer from the University of Michigan.
Rick Mirer is a football legend in the Hoosier State.
He is enshrined in the Elkhart County Sports Hall of Fame.
He was also inducted into the Indiana Football Hall of Fame on May 23, 2008.
While Mirer spent four unproductive seasons with the San Francisco 49ers and Oakland Raiders, it was during this time that he started becoming a wine connoisseur.
Mirer and his partner Rob Lawson eventually started the Mirror Wine Company in 2008.
Rick Mirer '93
Play Like A Champion Today Wine
— Notre Dame Family Wines (@NDwines) October 12, 2021
He enjoys the freedom of being a wine entrepreneur.
“I’m not going and sitting in an office at a desk I don’t want to be at,” Mirer told The Goshen News in 2014. “I have a lot of freedom.”
Mirer visited South Bend, IN in April 2021 to unveil his “Play Like A Champion Today Wine.”
According to Hansen, the wine has two versions: chardonnay to honor Lou Holtz, his head coach at Notre Dame, and a cabernet sauvignon version to honor the late coach’s wife Beth.
A portion of the wines’ proceeds will go to the University of Notre Dame for financial aid purposes.
The wines were also served during the university’s graduation ceremonies in May 2021, per Hansen.